Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Animal / Dog Law
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The Hopkinses kept cattle on their Marshall County, Tennessee farm. Detective Nichols received a complaint about the treatment of those cattle, drove by, and observed one dead cow and others that did not appear to be in good health. Nichols returned with Tennessee Department of Agriculture Veterinarian Johnson. Wearing his gun and badge, Nichols knocked and. according to Mrs. Hopkins, “demanded that [she] escort them to see the cattle,” refusing to wait until Mr. Hopkins returned or until she fed her children. Johnson completed a Livestock Welfare Examination, as required by law, noting that the cattle were not in reasonable health, that they lacked access to appropriate water, food, or shelter, and that major disease issues were present; she determined that probable cause for animal cruelty existed. Nichols returned to the Hopkins’s farm several times and discovered a sinkhole containing the remains of multiple cattle. Nichols and Sheriff Lamb eventually seized the cattle without a warrant and initiated criminal proceedings. The cattle were sold.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of a motion for qualified immunity in a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Forced compliance with orders is a Fourth Amendment seizure; words that compel compliance with orders to exit a house constitute a seizure. While the open fields doctrine allowed the officers to lawfully search the farm, it did not give them lawful access to seize the cattle; they lacked exigent circumstances when they seized the cattle. View "Hopkins v. Nichols" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the courts below granting a motion to dismiss Nonhuman Rights Project's petition for writ of habeas corpus seeking to secure the transfer of Happy, an elephant residing at the Bronx Zoo, to an elephant sanctuary, holding that the lower courts properly granted the motion to dismiss the habeas petition.Petitioner Nonhuman Rights Project, a not-for-profit corporation, commenced this habeas proceeding on behalf of Happy, arguing that Happy was a cognitively complex and autonomous nonhuman animal that should be "recognized as a legal person with the right to bodily liberty protected by the common law" and immediately released from "unlawful imprisonment" at the Zoo. Supreme Court dismissed the petition. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that "the writ of habeas corpus is limited to human beings." The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that nonhuman animals are not persons with a common law right to liberty that may be secured through a writ of habeas corpus. View "Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Breheny" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Ann Samolyk sustained neurological and cognitive injuries when she entered a lagoon in Forked River to rescue her neighbors’ dog, which had fallen or jumped into the water. Samolyk’s husband filed a civil action against defendants, alleging they were liable under the rescue doctrine by negligently allowing their dog to fall or jump into the water, prompting Samolyk to attempt to save the dog. Neither the Law Division nor the Appellate Division found the doctrine applicable. The issue presented for the New Jersey Supreme Court's review reduced to whether the common law rescue doctrine could be expanded to permit plaintiffs to recover damages for injuries sustained as a proximate result of attempting to rescue defendants’ dog. After reviewing the "noble principles that infuse the public policy underpinning this cause of action," the Supreme Court declined to consider property, in whatever form, to be equally entitled to the unique value and protection bestowed on a human life. The Court nevertheless expanded the rescue doctrine to include acts that appear to be intended to protect property but were in fact reasonable measures ultimately intended to protect a human life. Judgment was affirmed. View "Samolyk v. Berthe" on Justia Law

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In this claim brought by an organization dedicated to ocean preservation against the National Marine Fisheries Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the DC Circuit affirmed the judgment of the trial court in favor of the government defendants. In doing so, the court rejected both of the organization's claims that the National Marine Fisheries Service failed to provide sufficient protection for the dusky shark.The court held that the National Marine Fisheries Service did not violate the Magnuson-Stevens Act by failing to actually limit bycatch of the overfished dusky shark or hold fisheries accountable to any level of dusky shark bycatch. Nor did the national Marine Fisheries Service violate the Magnuson-Stevens Act by failing to establish a reasonable likelihood that training measures, communication protocols, and minor gear changes would reduce dusky shark bycatch by 35 percent, which is the minimum reduction needed to meet the statutory requirement to rebuild the dusky shark population. View "Oceana, Inc. v. Gina Raimondo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of organizations devoted to animal welfare and individuals who work with those organizations and with marine mammals, sued the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) and its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”), seeking to enforce conditions in permits held by SeaWorld, a business operating several marine zoological parks. The permits authorize the capture and display of orcas and require display facilities to transmit medical and necropsy data to the NMFS following the death of an animal displayed under the terms of a permit. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ suit for lack of standing.   The D.C. Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. The court reasoned that to establish standing, a plaintiff “must show (1) an injury in fact that is concrete and particularized and actual or imminent; (2) that the injury is fairly traceable to the defendant’s challenged conduct; and (3) that the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision.” Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v. Feld Ent., Inc., 659 F.3d 13 (D.C. Cir. 2011).   Here, the court found that Plaintiffs failed to allege a favorable decision would lead the NMFS to enforce the permit conditions and thus redress their alleged injury. Their allegation to the contrary relies upon unadorned speculation that the NMFS would choose to enforce the necropsy permit conditions and that SeaWorld would voluntarily send necropsy information to an agency that had not enforced permit conditions in twenty-three years should the court determine that the NMFS retains its discretion to enforce permits it issued prior to 1994. View "Lori Marino v. NOAA" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court modifying an arbitration award compensating Appellant, a rancher, for calf damage he sustained during the 2018 grazing season as a result of grizzly bear predation, holding that the district court did not err in modifying the award.Appellant reported the number of his calves dead from grizzly bear predation to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and submitted a claim requesting that the Department compensate him $349,730. The Department rejected the damage claim and agreed to compensate Appellant $61,203. After the Commission affirmed Appellant requested arbitration. The arbitrators awarded Appellant $266,685 for his calf damage. The Department filed a motion to modify the arbitration award. The district court granted the motion and modified the award to reflect the amount of $61,203. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitrators made an award on a matter not submitted to them and thus did not follow the law. View "Longwell v. Wyoming Game & Fish Department" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court granting Landlord's motion for summary judgment on each claim brought by Tenant, holding that the circuit court did not err.Tenant's minor son was attacked by a neighbor's dog near her home in Landlord's trailer court. Tenant brought this action against Landlord alleging two negligence theories and a breach of contract claim. The circuit court concluded that Landlord owed no legal duty to the child and, in any event, had no knowledge of the dog's alleged dangerous propensities. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the dog's attack on the child was not actionable as to Landlord because there was no duty that would subject it to liability. View "Burgi v. East Winds Court, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Ernest Bozzi requested copies of defendant Jersey City’s most recent dog license records pursuant to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and the common law right of access. Plaintiff, a licensed home improvement contractor, sought the information on behalf of his invisible fence installation business. Plaintiff noted that Jersey City could redact information relating to the breed of the dog, the purpose of the dog, and any phone numbers associated with the records. He sought only the names and addresses of the dog owners. Jersey City denied plaintiff’s request on two grounds: (1) the disclosure would be a violation of the citizens’ reasonable expectation of privacy, contrary to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1, by subjecting the dog owners to unsolicited commercial contact; and (2) such a disclosure may jeopardize the security of both dog-owners’ and non-dog-owners’ property. The trial court found the dog licensing records were not exempt and ordered Jersey City to provide the requested information. The New Jersey Supreme Court concurred, concluding that owning a dog was a substantially public endeavor in which people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy that exempted their personal information from disclosure under the privacy clause of OPRA. View "Bozzi v. City of Jersey City" on Justia Law

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Animal rights organization Friends of Animals served a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) seeking disclosure of form 3-177s submitted by wildlife hunters and traders seeking to import elephant and giraffe parts. FWS disclosed the forms with redactions. Most relevant here, it withheld the names of the individual submitters under FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C), which prevent disclosure of information when a privacy interest in withholding outweighs the public interest in disclosure, as well as information on one Form 3-177 under Exemption 4, which prevents the disclosure of material that is commercial and confidential. Friends of Animals challenged these redactions in the district court, which granted summary judgment in favor of FWS, upholding the redactions. The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of FWS as to the withholdings in the Elephant Request under Exemptions 6 and 7(C) and as to the withholdings under Exemption 4. The Court affirmed summary judgment as to the withholdings in the Giraffe Request. View "Friends of Animals v. Bernhardt, et al." on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review was whether a landlord who had no knowledge that a tenant’s dog had dangerous propensities could be held liable for injuries the dog causes to individuals who enter the property with tenant’s permission. Plaintiff Katherine Higgins, who was badly injured by a tenant’s dog while on the leased property, challenged the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to defendant landlords. When he was showing the house on landlords’ behalf after tenant moved in, a realtor who was representing landlords in marketing the property observed obvious signs around the house that a dog lived there, including door casings that were badly scratched by the dog. The realtor did not see the dog and did not know its size or breed or whether it had ever acted aggressively towards any person or other animal; based on the sound of the dog, he opined that it was “tough and loud.” Plaintiff, a neighbor, was attacked and seriously injured by tenant’s dog, an American Pitbull Terrier, while visiting tenant on the rental property. On appeal, plaintiff renews her argument that landlords have a general duty of care to the public, and that this duty includes a duty of reasonable inquiry concerning tenants’ domestic animals. In addition, she argues that landlords were on notice of the dog’s dangerous propensities on the basis of the observations made by realtor, acting as landlords’ agent. Finally, she contends that landlords are liable to plaintiff on the basis of a municipal ordinance. Finding no reversible error in granting summary judgment to the landlords, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Higgins v. Bailey" on Justia Law